On Thursday night, California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis are set to meet in a nationally televised event. Both are young, high-profile leaders with potential presidential aspirations. However, it’s speculated that they might have to defer these aspirations to future election cycles.
Newsom, 56, has talked about eventually running for president but is backing President Joe Biden ‘s reelection in 2024. DeSantis, 45, entered the 2024 GOP presidential race six months ago as the perceived top challenger to Donald Trump, only to fail to dent the former president’s commanding early lead in the party’s primary.
DeSantis is betting big on Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses on Jan. 15 and could still turn things around. For now, though, he’s in a fight for second with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, with both well behind Trump.
The 90-minute event — billed by Fox News Channel as “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate” — will occur at a studio in Alpharetta, Georgia, north of Atlanta, a location chosen for its key swing-state implications. There won’t be an audience, but the moderator is Fox host Sean Hannity, who has sparred with Newsom during past television appearances.
DeSantis could use a strong showing before a national audience to build momentum before Iowa’s caucuses. For Newsom, it’s a chance to reach Fox’s conservative audience.
Hannity has suggested the event will highlight the participants’ differing visions for the future. Florida is a onetime battleground where fiercely conservative DeSantis easily won reelection last year, while California is the country’s largest Democratic state.
Last year, amid some unease among Democrats about Biden’s reelection prospects, Newsom’s name was floated as a potential replacement for 2024. Newsom shut those rumors down, but he’s continued to spend his campaign money on ads in Republican-led states, including Texas and DeSantis’ Florida, and has visited Republican areas on Biden’s behalf.
“Whether Newsom or Biden is the Democrat nominee in ’24, they both offer the same failed and dangerous ideology for America that helped get us in this mess,” DeSantis spokesperson Andrew Romeo posted on X, formerly Twitter. “We look forward to putting Ron DeSantis’ record of success up against it.”
Newsom also is serving on the president’s reelection campaign’s national advisory board. When the Republican presidential candidates gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, for their second presidential primary debate in September, Newsom served as a chief onsite spokesperson for Biden’s campaign.